The Venezuelan president was in Syria to show support for Bashar al-Assad's government and stand together against the US government's "imperialistic" aggression in the Middle East.

The Venezuelan president said on his arrival at Damascus airport late on Tuesday: "We have the same political vision and we will resist together the American imperialist aggression."

Al-Assad greeted Chavez at the airport and thanked him for his support for Middle Eastern nations. He told reporters he saw Chavez's visit as "historic", and that the Venezuelan leader had made "great stands" in support of Arab causes.

The Syrian president was quoted as saying through an interpreter: "We appreciate your sincere feelings toward the peoples who have their rights and are under occupation, as well as your sincere humanitarian and moral sentiments."

Friend and ally

Chavez has built close ties with Iran, Syria and other Middle East countries while his relations have grown tense with the US and Israel.

He said he and Syria shared a "decisive and firm" stance against "imperialism" and American attempts for "domination".

On Wednesday, al-Assad hosted Chavez at the hilltop People's Palace, where the two leaders strolled down a red carpet and received a 21-gun salute.

Officials of both governments will sign a document opposing Washington's "aggression" in the Middle East, Chavez said.

US reaction

Asked about Chavez's visit to Syria, Tom Casey, a US state department spokesman said that the Venezuelan leader should remind Damascus about its international obligations to prevent Hezbollah from receiving weapons.

He cited a 2004 UN resolution that called for the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon and the August 14 ceasefire resolution that called for an arms embargo against Hezbollah. Israel accuses Syria of supplying weapons to the Lebanese militia.

Casey said: "We think what's important for anyone having discussions with the Syrian government to do is to emphasise the need for Syria to meet its international obligations,

"And that includes complying with its long-standing obligations under UN Security Council resolution 1559, as well as the additional ones placed upon it in resolution 1701."